Article By: Douglas Graves Special to the Bethlehem Press
The soldiers in Lehigh County’s fight against the opioid crisis just got some sharp new teeth that will allow them to attack a major source of the problem: the drug manufacturers.
Lehigh County’s chief law enforcement officer District Attorney Jim Martin has marshalled the law firm of Haviland Hughes of Philadelphia to help him. Martin introduced the law firm to the board of commissioners Jan. 24 and asked the Board to back him in his new attack plan to go after the big pharmacy companies and distributors believed responsible for producing and selling opioids that end up in the Lehigh Valley.
While they don’t expect to see any drug company executives go to jail, District Attorney Jim Martin and his new partner attorney at law Donald Haviland Jr do expect to put a dent in the wallets of the pharmaceutical companies who are in their sights. If successful, after attorney’s fees, the County could get money that could go toward the expenses of the opioid epidemic, such as offsetting money allocated to the County Coroner’s office last year for the purpose transporting the uptick in transporting bodies, victims of opioid use.
The board of commissioners unanimously approved the outside counsel for “potential claims of the county arising from the purchase, use, and abuse of opioids manufactured and sold by various companies.”
The law firm of Haviland Hughes is also representing Northampton County in a similar capacity.
Both counties are basing their legal action on the provisions of the Pennsylvania Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law.
In other business, the commissioners appointed: attorney Sarah Murray to the position of Lehigh County solicitor; Cynthia Reddy to the Mental Health and Intellectual Disability Advisory Board; and Edward D. Hozza Jr as director of administration for Lehigh County.
Murray, according to her bio published by the Gross McKinley law firm’s website, “is a business-minded attorney focused in the areas of corporate law, contracts and agreements, real estate and municipal law.”
Murray also has “extensive knowledge of commercial and residential real estate transactions and land development.” Murray is also expert in “land use and zoning matters and formerly sat as the Assistant Solicitor for a zoning hearing board.”
The County Commissioners approved a financial commitment of $3.5 million to start doing necessary engineering and architectural work in the long-needed rehabilitation of the county-owned nursing facility in South Whitehall Township. The overall plan calls for $68 million for completion of the rebuilding of the campus.